Published Mar 21, 2016"Oh man, it's such an unglamorous answer." MC Schmidt sits in the home office he shares with his partner, Drew Daniel, blushingly trying to answer the most obvious question about their latest album: "Why make an album from a washing machine?"
Matmos, the team of Daniel and Schmidt, have been making concept-based music since their formation over two decades ago. Their 1997 self-titled debut revolved around Byzantine field recordings (including the nerve activity of a crayfish); since then, the Baltimore duo have created albums from the sounds of household objects, from samples of medical procedures, and in tribute to influential LGBT heroes. Their last LP, 2013's The Marriage of True Minds, found Matmos conducting four years of ESP-based experiments where Daniel attempted to transmit the concept of the album into Schmidt's mind.
These make an album centred on a washing machine sound banal in comparison. But there's a certain brainy intellect behind making a record from their Maytag Ultimate Care II washing machine (aside from it being conveniently located in their basement studio). "It totally matters that it's a washing machine, because a washing machine has a certain set of sounds and a certain resonant frequency," Daniel explains. "It has both mechanical and liquid sloshy noises — it has a whole vocabulary. The album is what it is because of that fact, but the album is also what it is because we can take it back into our universe."
Presented as a single, 38-minute track, Ultimate Care II is an audacious and adventuresome piece of work, one that's just as influenced by the physical embodiment of the washing machine as it is the philosophical. Daniel responds to the notion that Ultimate Care II may represent their life as a couple rather than a musical duo, one where the allure of home supersedes the call of the nightlife. "It's cool to push back against the idea of escapism in electronic music as a purveyor of fantasy worlds. There's something realist about risking the drabness of laundry; it's an interesting stance because it cuts against a lot of the way electronic music is marketed and what it's supposedly about."
Created by an intense and involved process in which Daniel, Schmidt and a host of guests (including Dan Deacon, Jason Willett from Half Japanese, Duncan Moore of Needle Gun and members of Horse Lords) ran sounds from the washing machine onto MIDI players, computer programs, reel-to-reels and even "a CGI, 3D environment of a virtual washing machine with virtual clothes," much of the music on Ultimate Care II is amazingly captivating.
Like all their work, Daniel sees it as more than a gimmick. "There are some very Krautrock moments of drumming — it feels just very tactile and hippy-ish — and then there are moments of very fake-tape music, and then we end with a rave jam. I feel that our washing machine had a lot of different clothes in it."